“A lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.” ― Alfred Tennyson link
Trigger Warning: graphic description of physical abuse.
On March 4, 2017, the New York Times posted Dozens Say Christian Leader Made British Boys ‘Bleed for Jesus by Ceylan Yegnsu. For those of you who did not read our previous post on John Smyth and PJ Smyth, the following two posts should get you up to date.
Further updates on John Smyth and the allegations of child abuse.
The New York Times post revealed a strange fixation by Smyth along with further descriptions of the alleged abuse.The reference to the shed is the place where the alleged abuse occurred. Here is one alleged victim's account.
Having disclosed his “sin” of masturbation, Mark Stibbe, age 17, was ordered to strip naked and lean over a wooden chair in the garden shed of a lavish Hampshire mansion on the southern coast of England.
Then came the first blow from a cane, its impact so ferocious that it sent the boy into a state of paralysis that lasted through at least 30 more strokes that left him collapsed on the floor, blood oozing down his legs.
“I remember being so appalled by how vicious the first lash was that I couldn’t scream,” Mr. Stibbe, now 56 and an acclaimed Christian author, recalled on a recent afternoon in his Yorkshire home. “You’re in this tiny shed full of canes with this man. I felt utterly powerless.”
According to the alleged victims (I believe them), John Smyth had a preoccupation with the sin of masturbation.
Mr. Stibbe said, “The sin that seemed to preoccupy him more than anything was masturbation, and he managed to persuade me that I needed to purge my body of that sin.”
One young man attempted suicide after he was promised an especially severe beating for his 21st birthday.
Mr. Smyth would explain to the boys why they needed to be punished so severely. “He quoted from the Bible and told me I had to bleed for Jesus,” said another victim, who attempted suicide on his 21st birthday, after Mr. Smyth promised him “a special kind of beating” for the occasion.
“When he was done, he would lean in towards me and put his face on my neck telling me how proud he was of me,” said the man
Many victims accused the church and boarding school of covering up the scandal to protect their reputation.
Let me add a short rant here. Our reputation as Christians should be found in our open admission that were are sinners in need of forgiveness. If we truly believe we are sinners, then there is not need to protect our reputation. Perhaps these folks do not understand the basic message of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. Rant over.
But several of the victims who spoke to The New York Times have accused members of the church and boarding school of covering up the scandal. They said the institutions had wanted to protect their reputation and some of their senior members, who had supported some of Mr. Smyth’s theological interpretations that the victims say led to the practice of violent atonement.
The grooming process for those who would be abused is described by the victims.
They said he would select a small group of the brightest and handsomest teenage boys to join him at his nearby mansion for a traditional Sunday roast beef dinner, complete with roast potatoes, peas and gravy.
When the meal was over, he allowed them to play games in his garden and swim in his private pool, creating a family environment that had been absent from the boys’ lives since they had been sent away to boarding school at the age of 7 or 8. He spent the summers befriending them in elite Christian camps, training them in his ultraliteralistic interpretation of the Bible and guiding them toward careers in the military and the church.
But once he had won their trust and established a bond that many of them said had been akin to a father-and-son relationship, the nature of the meetings took a sinister turn. The victims said they had fallen so deeply under Mr. Smyth’s thrall that they hadn’t even dared to talk to one another about the horrors they had been subjected to in the shed.
Many of them felt deep shame and said they had been resigned to the culture of abuse, which in their minds was a fact of life in the British education system at the time.
A further clarification by P.J. Smyth leads me to believe that he is not fully disclosing the truth.
Brent Detwiler wrote an excellent post dealing with the changing statements of P.J. Smyth who is now the lead pastor of Covenant Life Church. In Lead Pastor P.J. Smyth Deceives Covenant Life Church About Knowledge of John Smyth’s Violent Beating of Boys. Brent outlined what he considers to be deception by both P.J. Smyth and the elders.
P.J.'s original statement.
Here is a link to P.J.'s original statement. In my opinion, he is implying that he had a happy childhood albeit he appears to hint at the use of corporal punishment in the home. he also denies seeing any sort of abuse.
During the time we lived in the UK, I was in boarding school from the age of 8 to 13. When I was home I never saw or heard anything that led me to suspect my father was engaged in the activities alleged. I had a happy childhood at home, and my father disciplined me in a manner consistent with the laws and cultural trends of the UK at the time, not in a manner alleged in the recent reports.
P.J. admitted that he was *mistaken* in his original statement.
The update is quoted in Brent's post.
UPDATE, FEBRUARY 22: Since writing this I have realized that it is not strictly accurate to say, “I was not involved with those interactions” and I am sorry for the confusion this has caused. I was seeking to write in a timely way what I remembered, but my memory was flawed. The Covenant Life elders have commented here. —PJ Smyth
Here is what the CLC elders had to say about his amended statement.
Update from the Covenant Life Elders was written to the church on February 22, 2017. In this update, they actually express sympathy for those who are suffering. However, I do not know if they mean the alleged victims or John Smyth and the family or both. I sure wish they could come out and express concern for the victims but that does not appear to be the style of this ex SGM church.
It appears P.J. *suddenly* remembered a meeting in the 90s in which these problems were discussed. Oddly he remembered it after receiving a letter from Zimbabwe reminding him.
As we began to read these reports, questions naturally arose: Did PJ know of such allegations against his father? If so, when did he learn of them? Anticipating these questions and more, PJ wrote an open letter on February 4. Among other things, PJ stated in this letter that he was “aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that [his] father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life.” He also wrote that he “was not involved with those interactions.”
Two days after posting his open letter, PJ received emails from a UK reporter and a pastor in Zimbabwe that referenced his attendance at a meeting in June of 1993 where certain allegations of his father's misconduct were discussed. Though he could not remember details of the meeting, PJ immediately informed the elders that his open letter was inaccurate. The following day he and his wife Ashleigh spoke directly with the Zimbabwe pastor.
And, of course, P.J. was being honest.
we also believe PJ was seeking to communicate honestly and in a timely way what he remembered. We believe he acted in good faith but his recollection of these earlier events was flawed.
Likewise, the Zimbabwe pastors who attended the June 1993 meeting have told us they do not believe PJ was being deceitful in his open letter but instead was struggling to remember details from events over two decades ago. In addition, family, friends, and ministry colleagues who have known PJ for many years affirm PJ’s consistent pattern of integrity and honesty. And ever since the media reports about his father broke, our experience with PJ is that he has been humble, open and eager to do whatever would honor the Lord and best serve the church.
I say hogwash to all of this.
It is time to get real about abuse and stop pretending that the person we like could not be involved. There are a number of reasons why I believe that P.J. knew and knows what is going on.
He grew up in a home with a father who is abusive to boys and has an odd fixation about masturbation.
He tries to downplay growing up in John Smyth's home because he went to boarding school. However, he spent his first 8 years in that home and returned home for extended vacations as well as attending his father's camps. If the reports on the father are true, and I believe they are, it is highly unlikely that his son was spared such beatings. I believe he hints at this possibility in his original statement.
He added to his statement only after he was contacted by people who had facts that he was at a meeting.
Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing that he only remembered when he received contacts from his previous life. I have a feeling that there will eventually be more *contacts* as the case against his father develops.
He allegedly attended and perhaps assisted at his father's camps as he grew older. Did he escape such abuse?
Was he the only one who did not know what was going on in *the shed?* Did he turn his eyes away from those who were bruised and bloody? I must also question if PJ was abused at the hands of his father. I find it hard to believe that John beat a bunch of boys but held off on his own son. If such abuse happened (and I cannot, at this time, prove that it did) it would be natural for PJ to view the abuse of other boys as natural.
Why did P.J .come to the US to become a pastor at CLC?
If PJ knew about the abuse, he may have suspected that this stuff would become known in the coming years. I find it interesting that he chose CLC that has had its own sad history of dealing with sex abuse allegations. Someone suggested that he began his church search before this stuff hit social media. However, I believe that he knew what had occurred and may have suspected that this would eventually come to light.
Also, many members of the Calvinista crowd seem to quite able to overlook child sex abuse cover up so long as the individual is one of their tribe. I bet John Piper would be delighted to come to CLC and encourage the membership.
In one of our posts on the matter, we discussed that John Smyth Allegedly Led Meetings in the Nude and Wouldn’t Let Boys at Camp Wear Underwear
It is important to understand that if these allegation are true, John Smyth was not simply physically abusing these boys, he was molesting them. Such behavior has a strong sexual component to it. In my opinion, we are dealing with a combination of sexual abuse and physical abuse which is sadistic in nature. Are we to believe that this did not once enter the home environment? Sorry, that dog don't hunt. If he was abused, then PJ has been deeply harmed in his younger years and has not dealt with it since he claims he never saw any abuse.
The only way to overcome abuse is to stop denying it.
It is my hope that if anyone in the Smyth household was subjected to alleged abuse, they will seek help. Sooner or later, pain will rear its ugly head and it will need to be dealt with .
Brent Detwiler has written an in depth post looking at statements by PJ and the elders. He concludes that Smyth is deliberately deceiving CLC about what he knows about his father's alleged abuses. I am including one part of his extensive documentation. I highly recommend that you read his entire post.
I am convinced that more will be coming out as John Smyth's activities continue to be followed by the international press. I hope CLC understand that the eyes of the world will be on CLC and that business as usual will not cut it. TWW is committed to following up on all new revelations.
This will be brief. Much more could be said.
You made several misleading and deceptive statements to the members of CLC on Thursday.
Statement on UK Media Reports
Date: February 2, 2017
Author: PJ Smyth
I became aware yesterday that a story broke in the UK media reporting that my father, John Smyth, was apparently involved in excessive physical discipline of high school/college aged boys more than three decades ago, when our family lived in the UK. I was about 10 years old at the time.
Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK, although I had no knowledge of specifics. Reading the reports is deeply troubling, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who was, or is, affected by this situation in any way.
First, you made this statement knowing full well UK media were also reporting on the alleged physical abuse of young men by your father after he left the UK in 1984 for Zimbabwe where he lived for the next 17 years before moving to South Africa in 2001.
This omission was intentional and I am sure it was purposeful. You didn’t want CLC members to know about the alleged beatings of boys and young men in Zimbabwe. Instead, you wanted them to think it was all in the distant past – “more than three decades ago” and confined to the UK. That is deceptive. It is the same strategy that was employed by CLC and SGM [regarding the sexual abuse of children].
Nor did you want them to know your father was charged with the culpable homicide of 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru in 1992 [correction: he was charged in 1997, Nyachuru died in Dec 1992] and five criminal counts of crimen injuria in 1993 [correction: he was charged in 1997, the incidents occurred in Apr 1993]. That is, “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.”
You also refer to the alleged beatings as “excessive physical discipline.” That is not the way the victims, news media or Church of England have reported their experience or the story. You are twisting and watering down for CLC what your father is accused of doing. You are not giving them the facts as reported. You are covering up.
You also distance yourself from any knowledge of events by stating, “I was about 10 years old at the time.” That leaves the false impression that everything related to alleged beatings happened in the UK when you were very young. You intentionally didn’t tell CLC about the reported beatings and criminal charges in Zimbabwe or your participation in your father’s camp when these things were reportedly occurring. You obviously knew some of the alleged victims, like Guide Nyachuru. You were probably friends.
In the second paragraph, you say, “Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK, although I had no knowledge of specifics.” Maybe, maybe not, regarding the UK but you continue the deception regarding no knowledge of the prominent media reports covering the 17 years in Zimbabwe. You made the statement after lunch on Thursday, February 2. You said you were “reading the reports.” By this time, your sister had already done her interview with the BBC and talked about life in the boy’s camp in Zimbabwe. You were not ignorant of the coverage but intentionally left it out. The question is why?
As a result of these misleading and deceptive comments, you were contacted by the national press [e.g. Channel 4 News UK] according to sources. You reference this when you say “there have been enquiries about what I knew and when.” These enquiries forced you to make a more detailed statement the following day that included reference to your participation in the holiday camps.
P.J., given your repeated obfuscation in the first statement, it would be foolish to believe anything in your second statement. For instance, when you say, “I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps [in Zimbabwe] and I was never aware of any abuse.” That is a categorical denial. You claim you were never made aware of any abuse by anyone at any time under any circumstances.
I’ve been at this a long time. I’ve seen leaders in CLC and SGM repeatedly lie and deceive. I will not be surprised if evidence comes out in the future that proves you are lying. I hope that is not the case, but if it is, now is the time to be honest with the CLC elders. If you cover up further, your demise is certain and extraordinary harm will come to the church.
Finally, a word to the CLC elders. Investigate closely and follow the story carefully. More comes out every day. Do not passively accept P.J.’s explanations. Furthermore, he should be reproved by you for his disingenuous statement on Thursday. It should cause you great concern! He should also ask CLC to forgive him.